Sunday, September 18, 2016

Game 2 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Tennessee Titans @ Home

Flag Football

The 1-1 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-1 Tennessee Titans 15-16 after allowing 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The officials called 29 (accepted) penalties for a total of 221 yards interrupting the flow of the game from the beginning to the end. The record in any given game is 37. You would've thought they wouldn't have missed anything with that many penalties but they did, and made up for it by calling things that didn't even happen. I'm wondering what the future of the NFL is, flag football perhaps? But I digress.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 40 (55%) for 260 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was on the last play of the game as Stafford tried to mount a comeback down by 1 point when he threw off his back foot, an old habit that he hadn't fallen back to in a very long time. But that was far from the only mistake made during the game (and I don't mean just by Stafford).

The Lions had jumped out to a 15-3 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter but had by then suffered losses due to injury of Ameer Abdullah, Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy and for that matter all their linebackers except for Whitehead and Armbrister. CB Lawson appeared lost for most of the game again and some of the other players were constantly out of position as well. I've been saying it for awhile now but DC Austin just doesn't have the Defense ready to play. Last year it took him 8 weeks before the defense started coming together, I hope it doesn't take that long this time around. Mariota completed 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 238 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Titans offense continually picked on the Lions lack of Linebackers (say that 3 times fast) and were able to move down the field (with the help of the officials) quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Despite all of that it was a pretty close game and it could have gone either way.

Once Ameer was injured and unable to come back the Lions run game all but disappeared, so too went most of their 4 minute game (the so called game plan designed to drain time off the clock) and that coupled with the lack of linebackers (needed to get stops) completely destroyed whatever game plan the Lions had developed for the Titans. The problem is, in my mind at least, the game plan didn't get changed to accommodate the situation. For example, with the injured players on defense it would've been a good idea to keep the offense on the field as much as possible. Instead, when a drive stalled at mid-field the Lions opted to punt. I would have gone for it, pass plays were what was working and the need to keep the ball was great. But no, first the punt, then their longest play of the game followed. As did their scoring, over and over again. Getting all conservative after these particular injuries was exactly the wrong thing to do, even with the small lead.

So when assigning "blame" for the loss, I start with the coaching. I would assign a percentage to the injuries as well but then no one can do anything about those. I "blame" part of the loss on the offensive line, the left side of which really fell apart when they were needed most. Decker definitely got schooled, hopefully he'll learn, and Tomlinson still struggles here and there. Even Swanson had a few issues though I will admit he's not being pushed back nearly as much as he used to. All of the pressure they allow is having a negative effect on both the run and the pass game, but they aren't the whole problem. The receivers need to work on catching the ball, there were nearly 10 drops in this game (give or take). Too many for the talent on this team. And no, Ebron was not the primary culprit, in fact, Ebron had some very nice catches. Stafford had a nice run of 24 yards to go with his other 7 but ended up stubbing his toe trying to cut instead of sliding, he also blocked some for other plays risking injury, he was doing way more then most teams ask their QB to do, but at the end, tired and rattled, he reverted back to off balance throws and threw his first interception in 212 pass attempts. Then again, trying to do too much when the rest of your team isn't quite helping out as much isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's still necessary to not revert back to old bad habits.

The other aspect of the game that was front and center though was the flag football. Not the tackling, just the sheer volume of yellow flags that were thrown. 29 penalties in all, and those just the ones that were accepted, there were many others that were not. Fans don't watch the games to see yellow flags all game long. The officials got more air time then the QBs, and nearly as many yards. I'm not sure how all the penalties affected the game, or which team benefited more, perhaps it was a wash, who knows, but it sure was unpleasant to watch! I'm hoping the Lions never have to put up with that officiating crew again, but with the way things go sometimes it wouldn't surprise me if they were in the majority of games this year instead.

In the end the reason the Lions lost was too many injuries, followed by the coaching unable to overcome, and finally by the players who didn't execute when they had chances to do so, and possibly the officiating. The only thing that went right as far as I know is the debut of the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders. So at least there is that.

Photo courtesy of

Next Sunday the Lions play the Packers in Wisconsin, then the Bears in Chicago the week after. Two very important road games. They must get healthy, and they must have a means to overcome injuries to adapt on the fly during games, they must practice (catching, footwork, blocking, tackling, etc), and they need a means to ignore the poor officiating. Can it be done? Sure. Will it happen? That also remains to be seen. One thing for sure, neither the Packers nor the Bears will be playing flag football, so it's time to get to work.

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